Monday, July 14, 2008

Got Fear?

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to fear.

Namely, how much of it I have in my life.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not holed up in a dark room, Howard Hughes-style, afraid to venture out and live life. But, if I were to be completely honest, fear is never far from my thoughts. It lurks in the shadows of my mind, like a wild animal waiting to pounce. Then it leaps out and attacks, robbing me of joy. In the midst of even the happiest moments, I can quickly be overwhelmed by a worrying sense of "what might" or "what could" happen.

I used to chalk this phenomenon up to motherhood. It seemed that once I gave birth, a microchip was implanted in my brain that allowed me to envision the worst-case scenario in every situation.

My husband and I laugh about it. I marvel at his relaxed approach with the kids. I fantasize about the peace that must accompany life in my husband's head. When we temporarily lost sight of our 5-year-old at the pool a few weeks ago, he calmly searched the pool deck, confident in the knowledge that she couldn't have gone far. My mind, on the other hand, was immediately panicked with the idea of abduction. It was the longest 8 minutes of my life.

But, even if I reflect on my life before children, I can quickly see that fear and I, we go way back. Fear has always been my constant companion. Fear of sickness. Fear of loss. Fear of hardship.

The reason why, at the age of 34, I've decided to take up karate has little to do with physical fitness and much more to do with fear. I am sick of living with a fear of being attacked. Raped. Even killed.

As a Christian, I know the "head answer" to my problem.

Give the fear up to God.

Let go and let God.

Trust Him.

And I would make attempts at doing this. Sometimes, I would do it several times a day. But, in my heart, I was never completely at peace. I was "giving it up." Wasn't that what God commanded? Wasn't I doing what the Bible said? If I was, why was my soul always feeling like it was being battered by a tempest?

I finished reading The Shack this weekend. It deals a lot with the subject of fear. At one point in the book, the main character, Mack (who is surviving a parent's worst nightmare), is having a conversation with Jesus. Jesus is talking about living in the present -- the only place where He is able to live with us.

"Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever pictures Me there with you?"

Again Mack stopped and thought. It was true. He spent a lot of time fretting and worrying about the future, and in his imaginations it was usually pretty gloomy and depressing, if not outright horrible. And Jesus was also correct in saying that in Mack's imaginations of the future, God was always absent.

"Why do I do that?" asked Mack.

"It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can't. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn't even real, nor will it ever be real. You try and play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try and make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear."

...."So why do I have so much fear in my life?"

"Because you don't believe. You don't know that we love you. The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe that I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it; you talk about it; but you don't know it." (emphasis mine)

And there it is -- the heart of the matter.

I've been a Christian for 14 years. I have experienced God's grace more times than I can count. He reached into my life and saved me from continuing on, what was fast-becoming, a very destructive path. I sing about it. I've told others about it. Yet, I still live life as someone who's constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, half-expecting God at any moment to orchestrate a tragedy that would take something I love away.

I complete my daily quiet time or attend church Sunday morning, then I "put God away." I busy myself fixing problems and trying to stem off the problems that haven't surfaced yet. Instead of running to God and resting in relationship with Him, I refuse to rest. I play God and prepare for the "future" that I am certain is coming.

I choose to have a continual relationship with fear, instead of a continual relationship with the One who has the power to cast away all fear.

And, frankly, that approach has left me exhausted.

I'm slowly coming to the realization that God doesn't cause bad things to happen. Bad things are, unfortunately, a result of the chaos of life. And they will happen. But my relationship with fear does not have to be. I can choose a deeper relationship with God, instead.

Such a relationship will only be built over time. It will involve me bringing a "mustard seed" of faith (and, believe me, sometimes that's all I have) and placing it before Him each day, trusting Him to nurture it into a seedling, and eventually something much more mature. Only through the power of His Spirit, can I begin to realize the depth and breadth of His love and goodness. By deepening my relationship with Him, I can finally begin to really trust and believe that He will never leave me or forsake me. Whatever might happen.

Peace.

A life without fear.

That is my prayer these days.

That is the cry of my heart.

7 comments:

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

Oh, ouch. Ouch. Me, too, sister. My problem is exactly what you stated...I understand it perfectly in my head, it's just getting it to my heart. It's learning to stop giving it to God and then snatching it back. Not easy, but so necessary.

Lizz said...

You certainly wrote a heart full. Oh my, I can certainly relate to fear. My daughter just stayed a few days with Grandma and I worried about countless scenarios while she was gone with her loving grandma. I can't help but think I wasted a lot of time that I could have been enjoying the rest of my family. Fortunately, our God is so good and he will reward even a mustard-seed size faith. Praise God!

Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart said...

Oops, I used my wrong account.

Kellie said...

Michelle,

I love hearing your heart on this...

One of my least favorite saying is "Let Go and Let God." Because it implies that we hand it over and then go about our merry way, with a bird on our finger! ;)

The truth is, and what you have written so well, is that we don't approach God in search of the avoidance of our pain, but for relationship that we are invited to enter in with Him!

I will certainly be praying for you as you continue to work on the issue of fear!

Threeundertwo said...

Wow. This post really speaks to me. You have tremendous insight. I live with a lot of fear, mostly around parenting, but my mother was crippled by it.

You are very wise.

Kristen said...

Philippians 4:8 Finally, bretheren, whatsoever things are TRUE...honorable...right...pure...
lovely...good, if there is any excellence, or anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Fears about the future and regrets about the past are simply NOT TRUE and we are commanded to not dwell on them. You have to push those thoughts out of your head when they creep in.

heather said...

I'm with you lady. In the car on the way home from the gym today, I was listening to my Sheri Carr album and thought of you when when I heard the title track "Fearless Now". It's really good (and you can get the single on itunes I think).